If you happen to be walking through the Granville Street courtyard outside NSCAD's Anna Leonowens Gallery on Monday evening, you might be stopped by something unusual. Exactly what will be a mystery, but it could be hushed or raucous; spontaneous or carefully choreographed: think snowball fights, rhyming out loud, costumes or (literally) walking on eggshells.
afterAnna is a biweekly performance series that occurs after openings at the Anna Leonowens. The open mic-style event started last semester, found its legs in a spare boardroom, and is now venturing outdoors. Conceived by NSCAD students and faculty, the event is open to anyone who is curious about performance, or looking for a venue.
Performance-based art doesn't tend to receive formal treatment in the classroom the way painting and drawing do. NSCAD instructor Michael Fernandes says, "We've been an institution that hasn't really taught performance...I have a particular interest in not teaching it."
Graduate student Becka Viau is currently a TA for visual culture, a theory and history class. "We're talking about the history of performance, but there isn't really an opportunity to engage with it," she explains.
afterAnna provides that chance---but from there, the group aims to step back and let things unfold. Viau explains, "I get up and give the audience a general sense of what might happen...but it's not like we're organizing an event. We're providing an opportunity for people to explore." Participants bring their own equipment and props, and are free to do pretty much anything. Fernandes says, "There have been no time limitations, no curating, no censoring, or even knowing beforehand what will happen."
Moving the series outside in February will provide its own particular freedoms and constraints, and the afterAnna crew is excited to see how the new environment will impact the performances, and vice versa. "I'm already thinking about it," says Mélanie Myers. "It's going to be dark and cold and the opposite of inside."
"The bars and restaurants around here don't really have much of a connection with NSCAD, so interrupting that space could be interesting," adds Jay Dort. The event will not be weather permitting. "Responding and adjusting to the situation at hand can be key elements to performance," Fernandes says. "I think those are features afterAnna has provided: being on your toes, urgent, direct, without guard, without rehearsal. There's a vulnerability there."
Viau sees afterAnna not only as a providing physical space, but mental space to move inside her own practice. "It definitely is informing the way that I do my research in my studio. It forces me to think in a different way. School should be a place where your brain is mashed up, and where you're exploring and communicating." Myers says, "I think work can respond to the opportunities that are there. I don't do performance unless I have an event; I make the work according to what is happening." Having a deadline every two weeks is useful, too. Dort finds that "it doesn't allow for any hesitancy. And it something does fuck up, then it's OK."
At a time where NSCAD's future is uncertain, afterAnna demonstrates some of the more elusive, slippery rewards of art that can be difficult to express in words, or in the form of a bottom line. Existing amongst the bright lights and bustle on Granville Street after hours will address the question, as Fernandes puts it: "How do you manage, how do you survive?"
afterAnna, Bi-weekly, following openings at the Anna Leonowens Gallery, Next performance in the Granville Street courtyard, Monday, February 27
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